Phone bank set up to connect family to Oklahoma soldiers

Wednesday, December 21st 2005, 5:13 pm

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Military families will be able to contact their deployed family members free-of-charge next week, thanks to a telephone bank at the state Capitol.

Cox Communications will install phone lines, phones and computer equipment outside Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin's second-floor office where members of military families can make holiday calls and send e-mail messages for free.

``We're calling this effort 'Phone Our Heroes' and that is a good name for it,'' Fallin said Wednesday. Family members will be able to contact soldiers deployed overseas although some forward units in Iraq and Afghanistan may be out of touch because they are not close to incoming lines.

Oklahoma Army National Guard Major Kenneth Iverson said the free phone calls will help lift the morale of deployed soldiers.

``Any soldier loves to hear from home,'' Iverson said. ``This is a great benefit.''

Dave Bialis, vice president and region manager for Cox, said some of the company's 2,000 employees in Oklahoma have been deployed during their military service.

``In this season of giving, Cox wants to give back to those who are serving our country overseas,'' Bialis said.

``This is a tough time of the year for military families,'' Fallin said. ``All too often members of the military may be deployed at remote locations or be stationed far from home, unable to get leave for the holidays.

``This is a way for husbands and wives and mothers and fathers to have a few moments together without worrying about what it costs,'' Fallin said.

The phone bank will operate Dec. 28-30 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. in the Capitol's second floor rotunda. Families will be allowed to make calls for up to 15 minutes.

Fallin urged families to e-mail deployed family members in advance to arrange a time and place where they can be telephoned and to get a number for the best location, including barracks or orderly rooms.

``Hopefully we can put hundreds of calls through during these three days,'' Fallin said. ``It's a way to add a little bit of warmth to a holiday season for families that have given so much to our country.''

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